I wake up with a start. Is someone at the door? And then I hear it.
‘Are you lasses awake? We’re heading to the beach for breakfast before starting off. Are you joining us?’
Starting off? After 10 seconds of utter panic, I remember we are going to the safari today. ‘We’ll join you in a minute. You guys go ahead.’ I say to the door.
‘I’m awake.’ Cindy grunts. But I can see she is happy to seize the day. We are ready in record time, and after a good breakfast, we wait for the lads to come back with the hire car and set off on our white-knuckle journey to the interior of the island.
The weather is glorious, the sun is shining, and we are driving through villages and jungle areas that greet us with luxurious greens and majestic red and yellow flowers. The island is an explosion of colours. We are lucky the traffic is light, although the little there is ends up making us girls grip the sides of our seats. How these vehicles miss each other is a total mystery, yet I’ve seen more crashes in Oxford than here. Eddie and Greg are in the front and seem to take the whole thing in their stride. Even the two buses heading straight into us don’t make them flinch.
We have lunch just outside the national park and then are bungled into a jeep for the next two hours. There is also a German couple in their 60s with us. They smile a lot, hold hands sweetly and point to the various animals. I wonder what it is like to have been together for so long and still be so happy with each other.
The safari is fun. What with elephants, buffalo, peacocks and crocodiles, I think we have a good share of wildlife. But after two hours of being thrown about in the jeep, I’m looking forward to getting back to our air-conditioned rental car and a less bumpy ride.
‘We could de-tour our way back and have dinner in Tangalle this evening. It’s lovely there, and I know a quaint little restaurant by the sea.’ Greg is talking to all of us, but his eyes are fixed on Cindy. The general consensus is indeed to have dinner in Tangalle, although I feel a pang in my stomach. I hope we won’t get back too late.
We arrive in Tangalle at sun-down and manage to catch the last of the sunset glory, sipping a fantastic cocktail by the beach. The restaurant is half full already, mainly with couples on their pre-dinner sun-set-gazing drink. It is so peaceful here. The palm and coconut trees are adorned with discreet little lights and candles are burning on the tables. Incense sticks make the place smell lovely. The hammocks in the corner look as if they have been claimed for the whole day by a couple of young lads with guitars and drums. They are talking to the waiter and look as if they are not new here. A family is sitting around low-level seats made of pallets. The kids are having the time of their lives, playing with the sand. It’s all so calming, such a surreal setup.
We order dinner and enjoy our evening. I love the company and food is delicious, but I feel restless. I want to get back. I want to see Kiri.
The thought of having only five days left sets me off with a sense of urgency and alarm. And then what? As soon as this thought formulates in my mind, I tell myself off. How can I even think like that? Kiri is a young man I’m just getting to know. He is a sweet, thoughtful and rather mysterious human being, but we are worlds apart. I will soon be back to my old routine, and he will be on to the next girl. Rationally I know all this, but I find it refreshing to feel the way I’m feeling. I feel alive and appreciated and wanted. I don’t want to give this up just yet.
When we finally get back, I’m nauseous. The road from Tangalle to Mirissa runs along the coast and is a continuous bend. At night there is nothing to see other than the constant stream of full beams from oncoming vehicles. The lesser traffic means we could increase our speed and with it, my sense of seasickness.
‘Thank you for a lovely day. I’m shattered. I’ll see you tomorrow. Are you coming, Ed?’
‘Sure, love. I’m quite done in too, see you all in the morning.’
‘I have a bottle of Arrack and a few cokes in my room. You lasses want to join me for a good night drink? They might not be too cold, mind.’
I look at Cindy and smile. ‘Actually, if you don’t mind, I’ll go for a quick walk, I need some fresh air and a bit of movement after the car journey,’ and I try to slip away inconspicuously.
‘Where are you going? It’s nearly midnight.’ Cindy frowns.
‘Oh, I’ll just pop over to the beach. I’ll be okay. I promise I won’t be long, and I have my phone with me.’
‘Make sure you keep to the light. I’ll see you when you get back.’ Cindy wouldn’t let me go on my own if she had not understood the real reason I need to go and scour the beach. But I’m also sure she doesn’t mind being left behind with the enticing Scotsman.
I take the little road to the beach. Apart from the usual stray dogs, I don’t meet anyone. I turn the corner and step onto the warm sand. Only a few distant lights are still on. The beach is quiet. I take a few steps and stop to listen. Nothing at all. I sit on the sand, looking at the ocean. I’m actually glad to have some time to myself. I need to look inside and understand what is happening to my routine-led frumpy self. What is going on in my mind? I see the beauty in life, I see the awesomeness of nature. I feel so alive! This scares me a bit. I need to learn how to deal with it. I … and my train of thoughts is abruptly interrupted. I jump.
‘He waited for you the whole evening, but then he had to go.’ Sanka sits next to me and stares at the hidden depths of the ocean.
‘Oh. We’ve only just got back.’
‘I know. I saw your car arrive. Is Cindy going out with that man?’
‘Erm, no. They’re just friends.’
‘Is she married?’
‘I really think you should talk to her directly. She can certainly answer questions about herself much better than I can.’
‘You are right. I’m sorry,’ and Sanka gets up and starts to walk off.
‘Was Kiri okay this evening?’
‘He was a bit upset I guess. You’re not here much longer, and you didn’t come. He thought you didn’t want to see him. He was gone before you got back, so he didn’t see you arrive late with the others. He just thought you were avoiding him.’
‘I see, I’m sorry.’
‘Talk to him tomorrow. He knows how he feels a lot better than I do.’ He winks, smiles and is off.
I smile to myself. What an awkward situation. Am I regressing to a teenager? I stay watching the sea until I feel a bit of a chill. I shiver at the nightly breeze. I have just made the decision to follow my heart, wherever it will take me.